But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is…
The apostle commences this chapter by defining the nature of faith; and then proceeds to adduce, from the narratives of the Old Testament, a variety of instances wherein this grace had been prominently exhibited. But he pauses in his enumeration, that he may indicate, in the words of the text, that, apart from the possession of this qualification, it can be to no purpose that men use the language of prayer. And yet, when immediately afterwards he comes to explain what the measure of that faith is, without which we cannot acceptably betake ourselves to the footstool of our Maker; it seems certainly, at first sight, as though exceedingly small demands were made upon us in this direction. The first requisite, in " coming to God," is stated to be, that we are to "believe that He is." Now, might it not have been supposed that the specifying of such a condition as this would have been altogether superfluous? You will notice, however, that the thing demanded was not that there should be belief in the existence of some Supreme Intelligence, who presides over the affairs and movements of the universe; but that the Deity Himself was to be the object of faith. Now, you cannot believe that "God is," without bringing your conceptions of His character into accordance with the delineations of it given in the Inspired Volume. And, when this is borne in mind, can it be affirmed with certainty that Christians, in the present day, stand in need of no caution in relation to this very point? One man, for instance, lets his mind be wholly occupied with impressions Of the love of God. He cannot think that the Being who has stored the universe with such abundant demonstrations of His benevolence, will eventually, on the score of transgressions unrepented of, consign any to the abode of the fire and of the worm. Now, is it not evident that the man fails to recognise the Deity of the Scriptures, in the Being concerning whose future proceedings he thus conjectures? — and that, so long as he confines himself to this one-sided view he cannot "come to God," since "he that cometh to God must believe that He is," — must recognise Him in all the comprehensiveness of His revealed character, — must beware of the substitution of an idol of the fancy, for the Lord of heaven and earth. But another man is thoroughly persuaded that he is walking along the road which will conduct him to eternal life: and this, simply, because he bears a fair character for morality, and is not chargeable with any flagrant crime. He may devote little or no attention to those religious exercises, public and private, which can with safety be neglected by none; but still it seems not to occur to him that he is endangering the interests of his soul. Now, remembering that "they that worship God, must worship Him in spirit and in truth"; and that "there is none other name given among men, whereby we can be saved, but the name of Jesus"; you will perceive that the individual who unhappily abandons himself to spiritual indifference, must be necessarily, meanwhile, far from the kingdom of heaven. And if he believes not, therefore, in the God of the Bible, in what terms shall we address him, and what course shall we mark out for his guidance? Oh! the man must indeed be directed to "come to God"; but nothing beyond what is essential will be uttered, when, at the same time, he is informed that before he can "come to God," he "must believe that God is." And how frequently is it the case, that the most solemn words of prayer are repeated by the lips, and yet quite unfelt by the heart! Now, is it not so manifest as scarcely to require to be dwelt upon, that if God have connected a large amount of efficacy with earnest prayer, then they who, notwithstanding the proclamation, persist in disbelieving, either wholly or in part, the fact, do not recognise, in the object of their nominal adoration, the prayer-hearing "Lord of all power and might"; that imagination has created an unfaithful representation of Him; that thus the Divine reality is kept out of view; and that, accordingly, before they can "come to God," they must, in the first place, "believe that He is." Such, as you will perceive, is the doctrine of our text; wherein the apostle, who had, in the preceding verses, given two instances of the happy results of faith, remarks parenthetically, ere continuing his list, that, if destitute of this gift, man cannot possibly find acceptance; since, in order to his doing so, he must recognise the Deity — recognise Him, of course, as described in His holy Word; and must thus approach Him as "a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."
(H. B. Moffat, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.